Photo of students hitting piñata sparks Facebook controversy - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Photo of students hitting piñata sparks Facebook controversy

Veronica Birmingham took this picture on the University of Memphis campus Thursday. Veronica Birmingham took this picture on the University of Memphis campus Thursday.

(WMC-TV) - A photo posted on Facebook showing a group of boys on the University of Memphis campus hitting a piñata shaped like a woman has gotten a lot of attention.

A papier mache hula girl is at the center of the controversy.  The photo shows a group of African American grade-schoolers about to hit her.

"It didn't look right, just because of the social climate we're in right now," said University of Memphis student Veronica Birmingham.

Birmingham took the photo on campus Thursday.  The piñata was part of an annual luau organized by the Residence Hall Council, to which school children are invited.

"How could somebody be so insensitive and not realize this might cause an issue?" asked Birmingham.

Birmingham sent the photo to a friend who posted it on Facebook.

"She said it blew up in seconds," said Birmingham.  "Everybody was like, wow, how did this happen?"

Some on Facebook called it "reverse racism."  Another commenter said, "somebody needs to be fired."  Others thought the picture sent a message that it is OK to beat up women.

Not everyone is offended by the photo.

"I mean, really?  I never would have thought anything like that until you brought it up," said University of Memphis student Mallory Gary.  "They're just hitting a piñata, just having fun."

The controversy prompted the university's residence life director to issue a statement Friday, saying in part, "the photograph taken out of context may be disconcerting, but we want to assure our community that no racial or gender animosity was intended."

Birmingham believes piñatas should, perhaps, not be made to look like people or animals.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly